Saturday, 28 August 2010

Warpaint, Pull In Emergency at CAMP Basement - 26 August 2010


The queue has been forming since seven o’clock. It is seriously chucking it down with rain. I do the sensible thing and adjourn to a nearby establishment with a good view of proceedings. I’m not the only one admiring the fortitude of the sodden masses outside.

Things don’t get really moving until nearly nine o’clock. I squeeze down the narrow stairs into the rammed sweatbox that is CAMP Basement and find that a support band is already on.

This is Pull In Emergency, a winning five piece fronted by Faith Barker, all smiles in a Breton top. They don’t stray too far from a twee pop Belle and Sebastian template and it is perhaps fitting that they have a song called “Everything Is The Same.” However, they are a welcome sight as the crowd gently steams and fidgets with umbrellas. After finishing with “The Problem” they rightfully take their applause.

I feel lucky to get to see Warpaint at such close quarters. These four girls from Los Angeles are on umpteen ‘ones to watch’ lists and in October are due to headline the Scala, a far bigger venue than this.

It’s one thing being on a list, and quite another to decide what heading to file them under. Tonight Warpaint are the most complex, astonishing and uncategorisable band that I have seen this year.

At various points during a jaw dropping eighty minutes they display elements of progressive rock, dub reggae, Fleet Foxes style harmonising, booty shaking funk and searing sheets of guitar noise. All this often within a single song - but with the changes of direction seeming to be a natural and organic flow rather than a forced or precious desire to show off their influences.

The biggest compliment that I can give to them is that they kept me wrong footed throughout. Every song is different from the one proceeding it, and none develop as you might expect. Warpaint have an early e.p. called “Exquisite Corpse”, named after the game similar to ‘Consequences’ played by members of the Surrealist Movement, where each artist would draw part of an artwork without knowledge of what had come before. Warpaint have a similar approach to their music.

Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa all take the lead at different times, sometimes alone, sometimes in combination with the others. It’s impossible to choose which configuration to prefer, I’m just stunned by their ambition and ability to make all this experimentation danceable and fun, rather than a sterile noodling exercise.

Tonight they are showcasing tracks from forthcoming album ‘The Fool’ and goodness knows how they are going to do justice to songs like “Set Your Arms Down” or “Undertow” in the studio. Loud, long and complicated, a transport of delight.

They end with an extended and extemporary version of ‘Billie Holiday’ which goes from gentle, aching lovelorn harmonies to a mighty wig out with Jenny Lee and Stella battering the life out of a drum kit. When they stop, there is a momentary silence as the whole crowd takes a big lungful of air, then a deafening roar of approbation.

Before this evening, I thought I knew about Warpaint. I was not remotely close. My tiny little mind is comprehensively blown.

Get your Scala tickets now.

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